TIFTON - Local and state officials broke ground Thursday on a technology development center designed to provide a link between research and agricultural technology.

The Technology Development Center, a joint project between the University of Georgia, the Advanced Technology Development Center and the Georgia Research Alliance, will be located next to the National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory (NESPAL), on UGA's College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences campus.

The center will house and assist agriculture-technology related companies as they establish themselves, implementing ideas from UGA research.

"I think this is a great project," Department of Community Affairs director Laura Meadows said. "You're taking a tremendously successful research laboratory and partnering with it to spin off high-tech agriculture for the counties of Southwest Georgia."

Meadows, who served as the director of the OneGeorgia Authority before being named DCA director, said she expects the project to be "the poster child for OneGeorgia."

OneGeorgia, established to provide economic development funds for Georgia counties that lag behind the rate of growth in Atlanta, awarded a $500,000 grant for the center. The grant was matched with another $500,000 from the Tift County Development Authority.

Tift County Commission Chairman Buddy Bryan, who also serves as chairman of the development authority, said the center will fulfill one of the priorities identified in the Tift 2020 economic development study. Chamber of Commerce members have worked closely with other partners on the project for two years.

"We reaffirm our commitment to the technology center," Bryan said. "This will create technology-based careers for our young people."

The center is expected to open during the first quarter of 2003.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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